Your ability to communicate effectively in group settings can help establish your credibility, build your brand and increase your exposure to a larger professional audience.
Audiences assimilate information by what they hear, what they see, what they read and what they write. We’re going to talk about tools that will help you mindfully prepare a presentation and help you organize what you are going to say and provide you with “cheat sheets” to keep yourself on track.
Glossophobia, or fear of public speaking is a problem for millions of people and is perhaps one of the reasons why Toastmasters International, the public-speaking training association, is so widely respected. Joining your local chapter of Toastmasters will help you make professional connections with people who, like you, are striving to turn their weaknesses into strengths; this link will connect you to Toastmasters International to help you find a chapter in your area.
Don’t think for a moment that you are the only one with stage fright – public speaking makes our mouths go dry and our memories blank; everyone suffers from it, including me and I’ve been doing it for thirty years. What you need is a personal prompter for everything you are going to say, while giving your audience something to look at and something to read while listening to you, thus delivering an enriched learning experience.
Your new best friend
PowerPoint is a lifesaver for everyone who wants to enrich their presentations with visuals, and it is easy to use. You create a slide for each topic of your presentation and put the important points you want to cover on that slide.
This gives the audience something to see, read and take notes from while it gives you an effective prompter that is hidden in plain sight. You move from slide to slide and you use the bullet points on the slides to keep yourself on track, while the audience believes it is all for their benefit. Here is a PowerPoint slide I use in resume presentations:
People also learn from what they write down. PowerPoint gives you the option to print out a very professional notebook that has each of your slides inserted onto a page and followed with room for the recipient to take notes. Not only does this help the attendee retain information, you can carry a copy around yourself and openly refer to it, “If you turn to page three you’ll see that next we are going to talk about…”
Presenters who stand behind podiums lose their audiences to boredom. But you can move around the room as you talk, pointing at the screen or the presentation notebook in your hand; the audience stays more engaged because they follow you with their eyes and are fascinated because you are so relaxed. Engaging your audience in the presentation, “Could someone read the next bullet for us? Samantha?” makes sure everyone pays attention.
As speakers we are always nervous, and we try to cover up by being formal and we use bigger words than necessary, trip over them, forget where we are and repeat ourselves. These are all mistakes that can be avoided by using smaller everyday words and speaking casually. Rehearse your presentation to practice making your points conversationally, as you follow along with your own notes up on the screen and held in your hand.
Check out Knock Em Dead – Professional Communication for more tips on how to improve your presentation skills.